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From Intern to CEO: My Barclays Career and Beyond

James, Barclays alumnus, tells us about his career journey.

My journey into Barclays was a little different than that of a usual graduate. Initially, I didn’t want to go to university, so I ended up moving to Sydney when I was 18, where I lived and worked for two years. After moving back to the UK, with some professional experience under my belt, I decided it was time to go to university – so, I enrolled at King’s College in London. In my final year, I started applying for internships, which is when I came across the Investment Bank at Barclays.

I applied as a complete novice – but that didn’t stop me from trying. And, before I knew it, I was welcomed to the team. Despite having limited financial knowledge, I took to my role as an Analyst quickly and loved throwing myself into new projects. Fast-forward six years, and I’m a proud Barclays alumnus, having left the business a few years ago to launch my own start-up – Sensat. Now, I look back on my time at Barclays and am grateful for everything that helped me get to where I am today.

The Idea that Changed my Life

Barclays played a huge role in helping me develop my start-up. During my three years as an Analyst, I was taught to look at the world logically. My role allowed me to find problems and break them down into principles, which I’d then translate into simple, communicable explanations. Without knowing it, this gave me the skills needed for my start-up – I just needed to have the idea. 

It was at this time – back in 2014 – that toy drones were released. I was fascinated that, even with a relatively inexpensive drone, I could see the world at a new angle. Before this, we’d taken photos from aeroplanes and satellites, but never 60-feet above your own house. This was my lightbulb moment. By using drones, I saw that we could capture high-resolution images, which would be commercially useful for surveying. I used the skills I’d learnt at Barclays to logically break this idea into steps and realised there was something in this that I needed to pursue.

Working Dynamically and Successfully

When I joined Barclays, I knew dynamic working was in place around the business. The principle here was to ensure colleagues felt able to work in a way that would best suit them. This included talking to your manager and team about your ideas for the future, which might require an additional time commitment. So, when my start-up idea hit, I knew I had to trust in Barclays to help me in making my dream a reality.

When I had a business proposition ready, I went to my manager and explained that I wanted to reduce my working week to three days. To this day, I’m incredibly grateful for how my manager helped me. He backed me when he didn’t have to. He was the one who said, “let’s do this.” Together, we stood up and presented a list of pros and cons – looking at this decision from both a personal and managerial level. I was thrilled when my proposal was accepted and, as they say, the rest is history.

Moving Forward with Barclays’ Support

Looking back, I now know that finance wasn’t my passion, but Barclays supported me in finding it. Their approach to dynamic working meant that they’ve created an environment where colleagues with intrinsic motivations can take the time to build on them. The future of employment most certainly lies in listening to people’s interests and ensuring they’re followed through, which is exactly what Barclays did for me.

The time Barclays gave me to work on my start-up meant that I was able to take it from a passion project to a viable idea. Now, I'm no longer a Barclays employee, but I’m a member of the Barclays Alumni – a tight-knit network of former colleagues from around the world who have remained interested and involved in Barclays work. And, although my start-up is a separate business, Barclays invested their time in helping me to create a service that is valuable to all sorts of organisations.

Taking a Leap of Faith

I’m so glad I took that leap of faith, putting my trust in my manager for encouragement and in Barclays for support. From my experience, many colleagues have been open about their goals and ambitions, and they’ve reaped the rewards ever since. 

So, my advice to anyone embarking on their Barclays career is to get to know people, find your niche and apply your skills to that specific area. Barclays is a huge organisation and has a whole host of networks and colleagues to learn from, as well as different opportunities across the globe. No matter the stage of your career, it’s never too late to follow your interests, and in a company like Barclays, you can know you'll be cheered on throughout the journey.

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